13 years ago, Washington, DC-based Muslim religious leader Daayiee Abdullah was asked to conduct a funeral for a man who had died of AIDS. "Several imams had been approached about this but wouldn't do it," he said. "Since I believe everyone has the right to religious rites, I did not hesitate to officiate."
This seemingly benign act attracted enmity from critics worldwide, but Abdullah did not flinch. Instead, as the first openly gay imam in the US, he became even more outspoken, advocating not only religious access for people with HIV and AIDS, but also mixed-gender worship, support for reproductive justice, full acceptance of LGBTQ people in Muslim communities, LGBTQ inclusion in Muslim liturgy and solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. His positions, he says, are firmly rooted in the Quran, and he references the earliest Chinese and Arabic translations to support his assertions - books he's read in their original languages.
This stance - that the written word is open to interpretation and can be made relevant to contemporary life - has rankled many Muslim leaders. But their criticism has neither silenced him nor kept him from contesting homophobic, racist or sexist commentary. In fact, they've inspired him to establish the MECCA Institute, an online school and think tank that will, by the fall of 2016, offer classes in modern-day explication of Islamic philosophy and tenets. Read more via Truthout